November 8, 2008

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Strangers in Paradise Volume 6

Written by Terry Moore
Illustrated by Terry Moore
Abstract Studios

It's hard to believe now, being a member of Fantagraphics' 20-20 club, going to the Small Press Expo, and passing on cape and cowl trades in order to grab Joan Sfar, but once upon a time, Strangers in Paradise was my window into a world I'm so happy to have discovered. The problem is that as a result of being more fully immersed into that world, my tastes have changed and refined. Unfortunately for this series, it seems like my taste may have moved past it.

It's a bit hard for me to tell if it's the series of the subject matter, however, because those who know me well know that I am not a big fan of "Year One" style stories, and this arc, set around the scenes from the opening of Volume 1, is a classic example of why I am not overly fond of the device.

When a character has been around long enough to be in print for several years, they have grown (hopefully) from their inception. We know their traits, their quirks, and, through clever storytelling, how they've come to be who they are today. Moore's storytelling is particularly strong in this regard. Slowly--sometimes a bit too slowly--we've learned the back history of Katchoo, Francine, and to a lesser extent, David.

Therefore, it's a bit strange, no pun intended, for Moore to feel the need to give us a back history that I'm pretty sure I already know. Yes, it's cute to see Katchoo crushing on Francine and to see how she was always fiercely protective of her, but I am not sure we really needed to. I can't be shocked when Katchoo discusses her step-father's abuse, because I already know about that abuse. Seeing the start of Francine's eating problems really doesn't change how I look at it, as I doped it out from context.

A few new things show up, but I'm not sure how much they play into things going forward, which should be the point of any need to set continuity like this. Francine's father was clearly an adulterer, so maybe that's why she has bad taste in men? Okay, but that's been done. Freddie only went for her after seeing her boobs at the school play? Gotcha, but Freddie's so four volumes ago. If he's coming back, I hope it's for more than a rehash of his attempts to get back at Francine through other, looser women.

In the end, Katchoo leaves and we're back to the future, with a dream sequence fill in that covers a lot of the same ground that the Jim Lee parody did. Katchoo has a lot of issues with her relationship to Francine and even a Xena send-up doesn't change that much. The jokes are funny, but as with the High School arc that preceeds it in this trade, I feel like we've seen it all before. I'll keep reading and see what happens, but the problem is, at least here, we're not strangers in paradise, we're all too familiar situations in paradise.